So you’ve made up your mind to redesign your website. You’ve been convinced by the benefits of undertaking this time consuming ordeal; it’ll lead to high conversion rate and reduce high bounce rate thereby increasing sales.
This is where SEO comes into the frame. Keep in mind that redesigning your website can totally destroy SEO if it isn’t put to mind at the helm of the redesign. Not trying to scare you but note that one line of code can destroy your search engine rankings.
SEO is very sensitive and search engines like Google and Bing tend to “crawl” your site and “index” pages and URLs. (Crawl and index explained somewhere below.) So when you eventually redesign your website, there’s a high chance these URLs could change. And it just so happens that you did not inform the engines where these older URLs have moved to, leading to SEO disaster.
What are these disasters? Your ranking drops, sales drop, returns on investments (that slick redesign) diminish and what’s worse; search traffic drops. So basically, your new website becomes a dud.
The question is, “How do I redesign my website without causing a SEO strangulation, drowning, murder… (Point taken) The answers are listed in details below:
How to Redesign Your Website without Losing SEO ranking
Consider SEO planning
Most marketers who own a website don’t think about SEO when redesigning their websites or sometimes don’t know how SEO works. They just go ahead and redesign their websites, changing every valuable content from historical pages, which in turn leads to their SEO failing. Other times, they duplicate all of that “valuable content” onto their new site. When Mr. Search Engine (e.g. Google) finds this duplicated content on their new site and imposes a penalty, they wonder why. Plan and discuss thoroughly SEO with your developer or if you’re your own developer, do a research on SEO.
Crawl your website (Yourself!)
The term “crawl” means to visit files or web sites in order to index them for searching. Why is this, an important thing to do?
Crawling your site enables you to know everything about it; from the structure to the Meta data and also the URLs. There are tools to do this like Screaming Frog which gives you reports about your sites. Once you have these reports, export it to a spreadsheet and study them. This will help you understand what you have to do on the new site.
Audit your website
Tools like Google Analytics show the list of web pages that rank on Google and others that are indexed. Google analytic is straight forward; it will give you the list of all the pages that people have landed on your site through Google search. The data you get here will give you understanding of which part of the website is flourishing and other parts that need improvement. In short, it shows SEO strategies that work and don’t work which could go a long way in redesigning your website to improve SEO rankings.
Make sure Google does not Crawl your site while you develop it.
When you start to develop your new site, make sure you keep the files of your new site safe from crawl and index activities of search engines. If you don’t no-index your new site, Google, etc will index these files. And when you do launch your site eventually, the duplicate content will have no value. Google etc will not care if the duplicated content comes from your old site, it may impose a penalty on your website.
Consider Inbound links and 301 Redirect Plan
SEO power is greatly influenced by inbound links. It’s advisable to perform an inbound link analysis to know pages linking to you and where they are linking. These inbound links cannot be overlooked because a change in your URL structure could make you lose them all. So what do you do? You have to make sure these pages must be migrated to your new site. 301 redirects are important if you are to undertake the task of pointing your old URLs to your new one. What this (301 redirects) does is, it safely passes PageRanks from your old site to the new one therefore maintaining your SEO power. Life could be made much easier if your URL structure stay the same when moving to your new website.
Recreate old rankings and non-ranking web pages
When you are done designing your new site and you have imputed the important URLs of your old site, it would help a lot to recreate the web pages on your old site that have low rankings or that are not ranked at all. If this is done well, Google etc that crawl your new site will not treat these new contents as duplicates because it would not find any significant difference in Meta tags that might affect the rankings of your site. (To shorten this, recreating these web pages would better your SEO ranking.)
Keep a Backup of Everything
I don’t have to spell out the importance of a backup. It’s very important and this step cannot and should not be skipped. Before you replace the old site with the new one, you need to backup all old and new files first and keep the database. After this is done, and only after you’ve done the backup, you can now replace the old site with the new site.
Crawl the new website (Don’t forget your spreadsheet)
Most people overlook this or forget to do it but it’s just as important as the rest above. It’s advisable to know the structure of your new site as well. Use Screaming Frog or whatever web crawler tool you know to crawl your new site, collect the content, Meta data and URLs and extract these URLs to a spreadsheet (preferably Excel). Now you take the old site crawl you did earlier and match it with the new site crawl. The old site crawl shows you URLs that are indexed by Google and also bring traffic to your website. This will help you make sure your ranked/indexed URLs are easily directed to a new page after you redesign your site. Also take notes of what is missing on your new site that isn’t on the old one and make alterations.
Additional checks (You can never be too sure)
After you’ve analyzed the errors in the new site and gotten them rectified, you should do some additional checks. The things you should check are Ranking and Content.
A rank check measures the performance of your site based on keywords in the search engine. Matching these stats to your new website will help you discover if you lost these rankings. If it does turn out that you did, you can identify the problem and fix it.
The power of Content is underrated by most and ignored by some. Optimized content contain key word phrases which drive organic traffic towards your site. Don’t just go on about redesigning your site and dropping all those 20 pages of optimized content bringing traffic to your website, it will cause great harm to your SEO ranking. Oh, one more thing, you don’t need to change your landing page content if you’re enjoying nice rankings. Please don’t.
Finally, you can…
Allow your redesigned site to go Live
Hold on just a minute! Before you excitedly delete all the files of your old website in your server and replace them with a new one, you have to make sure the correct 301 redirects are in place in case any of the URLs have changed in the process. Also, before you launch the site, remember you had stopped it from being indexed by Google etc when you started, make absolute sure you undo that so that when you go live, Google etc can crawl your website.
A quick summary of all this gibberish:
In case you scrolled all the way down to avoid reading that, here’s the summary of the guide to help you redesign your website while avoiding a SEO disaster:
*Consider SEO planning.
*Crawl your old website.
*Audit your website.
*Stop your site from being indexed.
*Look for Inbound links and utilize 301 redirect plans.
*Make better old rankings and non ranking pages.
*Crawl the new website.
*Do an additional check.
*Launch your new site.
Congratulations, you’ve succeeded in giving your website a makeover with a new design meanwhile keeping all the SEO power found in the old design. Now your site can have better rankings, high conversion rate and low bounce rate.
If you do plan to redesign your website, be advised to talk things through with an SEO expert. Also keep in mind that Programming aptitude and great design does not equal good SEO.